The tie is the ultimate accessory. Though it has no real function, it communicates much about its wearer. So when you choose to wear one, should it be a bow tie or necktie? The answer isn’t as straightforward as it once was. Today, when smart sneakers pair well with suits, why not cross pollinate bow ties with casual or business attire?
So, which to wear and when?
Bow ties have an association with formal events and geekdom. They have their ardent supporters, however, as more men incorporate them into their wardrobe. Meanwhile, neckties are the workaday go-to choice for business attire. Yet, as work dress rules have relaxed, many lawyers and bankers—members of traditional suit-and-tie vanguard professions—have ditched ties, except for client meetings. That said, the man who wants to distinguish himself from the crowd puts careful consideration into his tie choice.
Thursday is Bow Tie Day
Jacob Tingle, a business professor and director of experiential learning at Trinity University in San Antonio, began wearing bow ties as a lark. “The fact that I own one at all is due to the stereotype of the nerdy professor,” Tingle explained. Friends gave him two bow ties when he finished his doctorate, and he reasoned, “I’m gonna own this.” Since he had only two when he began teaching, he wore them on class day, which was Thursday. Once he had it on, Tingle said, “I felt different. It’s silly, but I felt happier.”
Why bow ties? It’s simple, Tingle explained: “There’s something about the bow tie. It’s sharp. It just looks different. It’s clean, and I feel like people think I’m friendlier. Maybe it’s the Facebook factor. We like to be liked. We like for people to smile around us, to be friendly to us. For me, the bow tie is that. It’s a real-life Facebook post. I get 90 likes.”
Because his wardrobe is more conservative, and he doesn’t wear other gear, “the bow tie is my accessory,” Timgle said. As he embraced bow ties, he perfected the art of tying them and expanded his collection. Now, “every Thursday is bow tie Thursday for me,” and people on campus know him for his trademark.
The seemingly genial professor could not resist a takedown of necktie slackers, however. “You can’t be a slob and wear a bow tie,” he said. With a necktie, “you see an ill-fitting suit and shirt and a single windsor, and I’m like, ‘Come on, you didn’t even try hard today!’ You can’t do that if you have a bow tie on.” Tingle mentioned Russell Westbrook as someone who raised the cool factor of the bow tie. Then he took a final swipe at necktie drones: “If you’re going to wear a necktie, at least learn how to tie a double windsor knot.” Clearly, he wants tie wearers of all kinds to wear them like they mean it.
Neckties have their supporters, too. Rob Dugger is an associate at Morgan Stanley, where neckties are a staple. Not feeling the bow tie romance, he said, “At work, I haven’t seen one person with a bow tie. Bowties are for the guy that wants to look extra spiffy.”
Dugger says his collection has improved in quality from his college days. “I have gone to more neutral tones, and I like the selection and quality of Charles Tyrwhitt.” His go-to knot is the half-windsor, which he said he could “tie in his sleep.” He added, “I have some wide-spread collared shirts, so occasionally, if I have a big meeting, I’ll go to a full windsor. Or, as dorky as it sounds, I‘ll go to how to tie a tie to pick up some cool [knot] designs.”
Not daily, but a tie for the occasion
Carlos Gamez, director of innovation at Thomson Reuters, doesn’t wear ties daily like he used to when he was an attorney. But he recognizes the effect of a tie when setting the tone for a dress statement. Gamez says, “I buy ties that fit with the suit. My ties are practical and on the conservative side, because I know they are not going to go out of fashion when I need one.” More occasional for him now, “I get my ties from Brooks Brothers, except for a couple I have from Hermes.” Though Gamez prefers traditional ties over trendy or slim ones, “so they don’t look like I stole them from a pimp 10 years from now,” he mentioned Mike Colter in the Luke Cage series as a celebrity who has nice ties.
Not a bow tie fan either, Gamez said, “I have a tuxedo, and I have one bow tie for it.” He conceded, however, that bow tie aficionados pay more attention to their look. “People who wear bow ties do it more in the broader context of a fashion statement. So you’re not going to [wear a bow tie] with Dockers.” Indeed, bow tie advocates would probably cringe at such a pairing.
Three professions, three opinions on ties. We may not settle this with one article, but each makes an effective case for his preference. What’s yours?